Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE II ISSUE 3 / AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 1980 / PAGE 21


Gene Zumchak

Actually, it was never my intention to get rich. It's just that I've dropped out of the working world for several months to concentrate on writing a book, and I was starting to miss having a little income. Last summer I read Don Lancaster's “Incredible Secret Money Machine” which is a very entertaining dissertation on going into business for yourself. A couple of his ideas are keep it small, and sell it cheap. It occurred to me that selling some blank PC boards might fit those qualifications. So I asked myself, what does everyone need? My most useful accessory is my EPROM programmer. I don't need it that often, but it's indispensible when I do. With 2708's dropping down to the $7 level, and five volt only 2716's dipping below $20, it would seem that no one should be without an EPROM programmer.

In small quantities I have to pay a little over $6 for a blank board. I figured if I offered the board for $19, I'd make $10 on every one I sold. If I sold a modest fifteen a month, that would make a $150 dent in my office overhead of almost $400. I certainly wouldn't get rich, but it would help a little. It seemed simple enough.

I should have known better. You just can't drop a blank PC board into an envelope and mail it. You need a parts list, schematic, software, circuit description, software description, etc. I already had much of that material, but it required updating, and I ended up doing most of it over from scratch. Before I was finished, I had over 20 pages of documentation, and about $1500 of my time invested. I'll need to sell 150 boards just to pay for my lost time. That is, that's how many I'd have to sell IF I made the $10 a board that I had planned on.

After my ad came out, the inquiries came “pouring” in. Unfortunately, the material I send out is over an ounce and it" costing me $.28 to mail it first class. Then there's the cost of the printed material. In all, it costs over $.50 for every inquiry. If one in twenty (a very high return), results in an order, then it will cost me $10 in mailings to get that order. Well, there goes that $10 profit. Of course, I failed to account for the $10 of my time I spend processing the info requests. Then there's the cost of placing the ad. With a little bit of luck, I'll only lose two or three dollars on every board I sell. Make that five. I forgot to account for some of my overhead. Boy am I dumb.

It sort of looks like, the fewer boards I sell, the better off I am. I guess I should consider myself very fortunate that I've sold only three boards. It does make me wonder, though, how all you non-customers out there program your EPROMs. Maybe you all bought programmers last year. I guess others are waiting for the price to drop.

The very saddest part of this situation is that like other forms of gambling, you don't know how to stop. I reason, I already have $1500 sunk into this, I might as well stick it our a little longer. There's really no hope for me.

Actually, I have been selling KIM accessories for years, so I really ought to know better. For my several thousand hours already invested, I'm only a thousand dollars in the hole. At least I can take comfort in knowing that my lack of success is not attributable to poor quality or design. My customers (both of them) are just thrilled with my work.

If nothing else, I've developed a great deal of respect for those others who are building and selling hardware, and actually making a living at it. If you have designed and built something for yourself that you think the rest of the world could use, forget it quickly, before it's too late. Take a cold shower. If you're thinking of'saving a little money by designing and building something for yourself, save yourself the misery. Someone else has already done it. Just to duplicate my hardware and software efforts on a simple project the like the Programmer would take at least $500 of' your time. You're farther ahead using your spare time to sell hamburgers at minimum wage and buying yourself a really nice programmer. But then there’s not that satisfaction of doing it yourself'.

Actually, the programmer project was the good news. I haven't even told you about the other board, the EPROM Emulalor. But that will have to wait. I have to go. There's a couple of gentleman in white coats at my door. I don't believe it. At last, some customers.